Marking the ten-year anniversary of the establishment of the Rathfinny Wine Estate, this week sees the release of its first signature-style vintage 2016 Classic Cuvée.

Rathfinny Estate is one of England’s largest vineyards and located on south-facing slopes overlooking Cuckmere Haven in East Sussex.

Established in 2010 by husband and wife team Mark and Sarah Driver on the site of a working arable farm, a decade later it is now producing Sussex Sparkling wine that rivals the finest Champagnes.

The launch of the 2016 Classic Cuvée – a blend of 57 per cent Pinot Noir, 22 per cent Chardonnay and 21 per cent Pinot Meunier, aged for 36-months in the bottle – represents a significant milestone for the grower-producer, based in the South Downs National Park, completing its full range of Sussex Sparkling wines.

It takes its place alongside the release of the 2016 Blanc de Blancs, 2016 Blanc de Noirs and 2017 Rosé Brut, all of which are produced under strict Sussex Protected Designation of Origin guidelines and the supervision of French winemaker, Jonathan Médard, originally from Epernay in the Champagne region of northern France.

Rathfinny brand ambassador Rob Buckhaven said: “We’re very proud of our first vintage Classic Cuvée wine, which is our signature style and sits alongside our Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs and Rosé.

“The Classic Cuvée 2016 has a radiant lemon hue with an expressive nose of fresh red orchard apples, a creamy tangerine mousse punctuated by toasty notes of almond brittle, and a honeydew melon finish.”

Releasing a vintage wine like Rathfinny’s signature Classic Cuvée 2016, with grapes coming from the single harvest, is unusual, as most signature-style sparkling wines, especially those from Champagne, are a blend of multiple years.

Co-owner Mark said their plan is to release only vintage wines, in contrast to Champagne, where more than 80 per cent of production is non-vintage blends from multiple harvests.

While many English wine producers focus on local sales alongside the UK restaurant trade, Rathfinny are planning for up to 50 per cent of its production to go to key export markets within Europe, Asia and North America.

As well as a wine producer, Rathfinny Estate is a popular destination for visitors, food and wine enthusiasts and walkers. Currently only the cellar door is open to purchase wines but the Rathfinny team are looking forward to welcoming visitors again once it is safe to do so.

The estate is leading the trend for wine tourism in the UK with organised vineyard tours and wine tastings, dining options and quality accommodation on-site. The Tasting Room restaurant, recently awarded the Plate Michelin 2020, provides formal dining with spectacular views across the Vineyard and South Downs.

“The world of wine is as much about providing a fantastic experience as it is it is about producing world-class wines,” said Sarah, co-owner of Rathfinny.

“That’s what we aim to give everyone - an experience that matches the premium quality of our Sussex Sparkling wines, at the Rathfinny Estate. We look forward to being able to open the Estate again to visitors in the future, it is something to look forward to at these difficult times and will be a real opportunity for people to support local businesses producing local products.”